Steve is the Course Leader for our Law degree. He tells us about the importance of connecting with his students and preparing them for the real world.
Steve joined Bath Spa University as a Senior Lecturer and Course Leader for our Law degree in June 2020.
He moved into academia in 2008 as an Associate Lecturer, which has given him a good breadth of experience and means there’s not many modules across both Masters and Undergraduate that he hasn’t taught. This, along with his background of running his businesses, has given him a great foundation to develop our law degree on.
Steve was also shortlisted for student and colleague led awards at his previous institution for his teaching and pastoral care. As well as winning Tutor of the Year at the Vice-Chancellor's Awards at the University of Hertfordshire in 2017.
Tailoring the law degree to my vision
Bath Business School wanted a Law degree that was different but also gave students the opportunity to gain real world experience and prepare them for their Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE).
At the moment I'm busy setting up partnerships for our Law Clinic with the Citizens Advice Bureau and a leading law firm in the region. Students will be able to select this as a module in their third year, embedding some legal work experience into the degree. This will give our students the opportunity to advise on real world problems and offer a unique service to the citizens of BANES.
As the qualifications to become a solicitor are changing, we’ve also taken the opportunity to build elements of these new assessments into the degree. We believe our degree will prepare students to sit their first SQE exam. The Law Clinic will also count towards their work experience, so by choosing this module students could potentially get up to six months legal work experience.
Students can also decide which area of law they want to focus on. We share some modules from business and criminology which allows students to go in different directions from the typical law degrees. We recognise not all students want to be solicitors or barristers therefore our range of modules allow for a variety of different career plans.
“We're going further and focusing on practical experience and SQE assessments, giving students a head start in the real world once they've graduated.”
Supporting my students
I was voted by students as Tutor of the Year in 2017 at University of Hertfordshire. The reason I won was because I make sure I’m available to my students and go above and beyond to support them, well that’s certainly what my students said in my nomination.
I think it’s so important to have office hours, drop in sessions, regular meetings and check ins. I’ve found my students really value regular communication and contact, and they say they feel like I really care about them. Which I certainly do!
The important thing to remember is that we’re not in normal times. Young people are going to university for the first time, they’re outside their comfort zone and we’re in the middle of a pandemic, so we have to find different ways of engaging with them as we’re not just in the classroom. Alongside regular communication, it’s important to get a range of social activities going.
We do a thing called Debattle. It’s one minute quick fire debating, so each student takes a different view of an argument, makes their points and then the audience decides the winner. This works online and in person but at the minute we’re doing it online. It definitely helps with engagement in the classroom and helps students get to know each other. It brings them together as one unit away from their separate teaching groups.
We’re also hosting movie nights and quizzes, and we’ve already done our Debattle Christmas special and just had our Christmas Movie Night. I like to share recipes with my students too, and it’s these little things that they really appreciate.
I find that about 70% of my contact with students is about them as people and getting to know each other. I want to make sure that they’re ok and are having a good time.
“The most important thing to me is that my students do well.”
My biggest lessons from 2020
My advice to students is talk. Talk to friends, talk to family and talk to us. We may be lecturers but we’re all human too. Talk to us as we're here to help you and we want you to do well. That’s the most important thing to us.
What I’ve learnt from the pandemic is the benefits of working differently. A regular occurrence in my meetings and lectures is my three year old daughter coming in. My students now don’t like it when she doesn’t come in. They expect to see her and enjoy it. It breaks up the lecture for them. We’ve found a way to be human. The pandemic has humanised lecturers and academics which is a really good thing.
I’ve only known Bath Spa in a Covid world, but it’s been good to try different things with online teaching. Some students really like it so we need to think about how it becomes a key part of what we offer in years to come. We’ve learnt that we can do online as well and with effort and evolution, online teaching can have a significant impact on the Higher education sector for years to come.
“I think we’ve learnt a lot from the pandemic. We need to embrace offering education online and within the classroom, and in the post Covid world with the evolution of the SQE we have a real opportunity for a new approach to learning the law.”
My academic interests
I’m currently teaching the British Constitution and Brexit module which has been very topical! Then next semester I’ll be teaching Criminal Law, which I really enjoy. It’s one that students seem to enjoy most with some really interesting cases to look at.
Corporate governance in the context of sport is my main interest. I’m hoping to add Sports Law on to the law degree at some point in the future! I'm currently working on a paper looking at sports governance and a comparison between UK and American sports.
My passion for sport
You might have guessed I'm really into my sport. I used to play a lot but it’s more watching now. I support Tottenham for all my sins, and I’ve adopted Bath Rugby as we’ve moved down this way. I am also a big NFL fan and the Dallas Cowboys are my team.